tv KQED Newsroom PBS July 11, 2014 8:00pm-8:31pm PDT
next on kqed "newsroom." save water or get hit in the wallet. wasting water as the drought intensifies and dry conditions get fire season roaring to an early start. plus, pulling the curtain off health care prices. it's not as easy as it sounds. >> it is virtually impossible for consumers to find out the price of something in advance of a treatment.
good evening and welcome to kqed "newsroom." california is struggling with its worst drought in decades as state lawmakers debate a million billion dollar water bond. californians have cut by 5%, not the 20% called for in january. state resources control board is targeting outdoor water use and threatening fines up to $500. the recent high temperatures and dry conditions are cooking up a fierce fire season. in the past two weeks, wildfires flared from napa to southern california. concerns remain high drought conditions intensify. all these elements joined together create a political and environmental scenario. we have consumer editor of keu news. and ked science manager and environmental writer.
paul, starting with the latest drought update, how much power did the control board realistically have to mandate conservation. >> not as much as you might think, actually. there are three levels of water conservation that any city can do. those basically are voluntary water conservation rules, which are in place in most places in the bay area now. that basically means sending an insert, putting stuff on the website. please don't hose down the driveway. use a nozzle if you wash your car. don't run the faucet into the street. if you do any of these wasteful things, we're going to send someone over to write you a ticket and fine you. the third level is rationing. that's happening almost nowhere in california, except pleasantton and santa cruz where every household gets a budgeted amount of water. if you use more than that, you
pay big fines. what they are expected to do on tuesday is is vote for the second level, which is to say we're forcing every city to do these mandatory rules. but the devil is in the details. the cities don't have to hire water cops to write tickets for violators. they fine $500 if they don't want to. state lawmakers say they can. they can the give warning tickets. >> there's no teeth in it. >> that's right. there's no teeth in it. the big problem is jerry is upset and noticeably so because he wanted a 20% reduction. so far he hasn't gotten 5%. most of the people in the bay area and l.a. are not feeling this drought yet, even though brown is getting hammered. if the el nino fizzles out we could have a fourth year of drought, fifth year. and we don't have enough water for hospitals, sewage systems.
he said, look, we're doing a bad job now. we have to save more for later. >> look, we can't ask for too much more because we are using the same amount we did 20 years can ago with a lot more population. so people have reduced their consumption by more than 20%. now you are coming to them saying, do it even more. they are saying realistically it's hard for a water company to do that because people are trying to do exactly that. >> nonsense. i know that's not your argument. that's their argument. when we have seen places like pleasant ton and santa cruz say we want 20% production and we're going to fine you. in santa cruz, one unit above your allotted amount is $50. they have 90% of the households cutting back 25%. san francisco is cutting 1% from last year. san jose is cutting 4%. basically what's happened is because there is no teeth in these things.
even though you say that is correct, over the last 30 years we have done a good job of putting in low flow toilets and using the same amount of water, a lot more savings could be had. the recent they don't want to do this is they lose tens of millions of dollars in revenue. it's terrible political for them. they sell less water. and then to make it up they have to raise your water bill. they get yelled at. it is a nightmare. they are kicking and screaming to not have to do the mandatory rules. >> if heavy enough, people will cut back. the other side of this too is with the drought dragging on the way it is the the fire season is starting earlier. vegetation is so dry. the kind of dry vegetation we are seeing is what we wouldn't see until mid august. >> exactly. i was talking to pilot who's fly the tankers. they said this is the stuff you see late august, september. that's the dry fuel level.
up at the cal fire said, look, this is as bad as it's gotten in many, many decades. ill checked their latest incomes. as of the 7th of july, these are the most recent numbers, we have had 2,990 fires. that's 16 foo fires a day. last year, we had 2,667. 14 fires a day. the five-year average is 2,101. that is 11. so we have five more fires every day. and every one of those fires on top of the original have the potential for getting wildly out of control. one of the reasons is there's more people doing the fighting. they are actually able to do a better job. but the reality situation is we are seeing more fires than we have seen ever. >> it is early in the fire season. >> that's coming after a winter where they have never had a break. >> right.
southern california, there are many districts at cal fire just 24/7, 365 days a year on full alert. there's no fire season down there. fire season is getting longer and longer because of the drought. >> let's turn to the politics of the drought. how is this affecting the water bond on the november ballot? >> there is a big effect on it. to give a little bit of context, $11 billion bond passed in 2009. it is already sitting on the fall ballot eighth to be voted on. all the politicians think it is too expensive and it would fail if it went up for a vote. what they want to do is take that off the ballot and replace with a smaller bond. they want to get something on there. they feel in a drought season it's they say, hraorbgs we should be spending more money on water projects and we're going approve this. but they require a two-thirds vote to get passed.
you need lawmakers on both sides to agree with it. they don't have them due to ethical issues we discussed in other shows. >> but also they're not able to get the republicans over to their side. >> that's right. there are two real issues here. well, there's three real issues. governor brown says he doesn't want to go above $6 billion. the assembly and senate have much more extensive plans they would like passed. and most parties, as well as republicans, want to see a lot of money on service storage, new dams and reservoirs. there's environmental restoration, things like that. so there is an argument how much u to spend on dams and things like that. the line is $3 billion. but if it's a $6 billion bond, lib don't want to spend half on things they don't like.
>> it is unrealistic to build a dam in california because there will be so many ways to argue, stop that that it virtually becomes impossible. >> so the environmental groups want to put more money for water conservation. you know, they say if you buy a low flow toilet, we will give you 100 bucks. they want more money for those programs. more money for recycled water. more money for restoring water in the ground. the big question, and i'm curious what scott thinks about this, is whether the dams will be able to appeal to republican voters away for some kind of compromise, or whether the the whole republican party is just going to say our way or nothing and potentially come away with nothing. >> let's keep this in mind. because the way the budget has shifted. so a simple majority vote. and because of the big losses republicans suffered, it is very rare for republicans to have relevant and to have clout in sacksment toe.
a lot of republicans, especially in the senate, have to be thinking this is a moment where we could assert ourselves and get some of our priorities through. and they have made it clear that is nor the surface storage. there is another dynamic as well. that has to be the dell -- >> is there a correlation? i was wonder building that. >> yes. and no. like most environmental policy things and state, a direct issue, there is no direct money for the tunnels in the project. that's being funded by another source. in order for the tunnels to go forward, they're going to have to spend a lot of money spending money kind of making up for the fact that this construction would harm some wildlife. so opponents of the project are targeting the restoration money in this bond. which is half a billion dollars at this time. they think if they can scale back or restrict its use, they might slow down the tunnel.
>> i want to also bring up the issue of food prices. we have the politics. now we've got the consumer issue that is being brought up. the brought is already driving up food prices. powell try, dairy, you name it. >> it is doing all of that. certain things have yet to be affected. that's what surprised me. root vegetables have yet to be affected. melons, tree fruit, big increases. and looks to be even a lot more. with all the other, the trees being pulled out of the ground. even if it starts raining again, it will take years to replace some of the 5 million acres on it of production right now. so food prices going up is not the going to be something terribly unusual. while there probably is in mexico plenty of food to come in, it's going to cost more because it costs more to ship it. >> how much more has it gone up? >> meat is up 5.5% to 6.5%.
poultry, 5% to 6%. and most of the produce that we think of is 3% to 4%. that's just with what we have right now. knows, if it gets worse, where that's going to go. >> in the meantime, there is food aid to agricultural workers to some of the areas hardest hit. unemployment is on the rise because of the drought. >> one of the things that will come is a lot more technology is going to come to bear. it's amazing the amount of technology that's already out there. for example, home watering systems that sense whether or not the ground really needs to be watered at that point in time. while the technologies will come in, and while we will pay a heavy price for what's now, a lot of the technologies like low flow and shower heads, it will pay off in the end. >> this is a really important point. agriculture in california uses 80% of the developed water. meaning all the water that people use.
and so the majority of acres in california do not have drip irrigation. they have caught up a little bit. they're doing a better job. but there are enormous potential gains to be had. with drip irrigation you can cut water 30%, 40% per acre. it is a lot cheaper to put in drip irrigation than dams. >> smart meters. they are testing smart water meters. what's amazing is this will tell you literally down to the unit what your water use is. if you see you are using water at 2:00 in the morning and nobody is getting up to use the restroom, there is a leak. it gives people a chance to manage their water in ways than never before. i know there is controversy about smart meters in general. this could be a huge thing if we are willing to spend the money in smart meters and people are willing to follow the advice of smart meters. >> i hear a lot of piecemeal solutions here. what do we need to do, though,
as a state policywise to really prepare for future droughts in the long term, not just addressing this one drought. >> my thought, in thinking about this as we talk about these preliminary steps and these suggestions and here's how you can cut back on water. like so many things in life, people don't do things unless they're forced to. unless they're really going to get a fine. unless oh, my gosh, i'm going to run out of water now. i wonder if we have to delay and wait until the second, third, fourth year where it is dire to see some of the change. if we have to wait for the state to take the next step. in terms of really aggressive pushes to stop using water. >> we have seen play out in other developed countries. australia had a 10-year drought. they justened a few years ago. they cut their per capita water use like two-thirds. they built six massive
desalinization plants. 20% of all use, all businesses, all 40 million people, 20% of the water demand. >> the rest is agriculture. >> the big cities in california, l.a., san jose, using the same amount of water as 30 years ago. with conservation you can keep doing better. the kind of reforms is groundwater reforms. we're overpumping. that's our water in the bank for future use. governor brown is trying to pass big reforms on that. that would be historic. >> as we tell people, as we talk about finances and computer things, diversify. don't bet on one thing. don't bet on conservation alone. we have to look at
desalinization. it may potentially be more expensive and people may not use it. if you took that attitude, we shouldn't buy a fire truck. diversity is what is going to save us. >> 80% of california is considered in extreme drought conditions. thank you all for joining us. scott, tom, paul. well, we all want the best prices when we shop, right? if you're looking for a computer, a new car, or just about anything else, it's pretty easy to find the price range after a quick web seven. but for health care, forget it. it's well-known to health policy types. but the health care marketplace lacks transparency when it comes to cost. it is hard to tell if you are getting a fair price or paying
for the nose for things like a mammogram or mri. >> so what's the deal with the health care market? is it just fundamentally different than other markets? >> pretty much. it is virtually impossible for consumers to find out the price of something in advance of a treatment. you can call around. people have described calling a hospital. they are going to have some procedure. they get shuttled from place to place to place. nobody can give them a straight answer. >> why is that? there is a lack of transparently built into the system somehow? >> a lot of it is the way that traditionally health care has been covered in this country. originally we had an indemnity insurance plan system. >> what does that mean? >> so that means you would pay as a consumer 20% of whatever was charged. so then there is an
incensive to have a higher and higher charge because insurers would pay 80% and you would pay 20%. then we had the transition to hmo. insurers negotiate directly with employers. they don't know what is being offered to providers. >> that raises the question, if someone is paying out of pocket for a mammogram, they will have a different price than someone who went through kaiser and may not have even seen a bill, right? >> that's correct. kaiser is a closed system. people in general pay a premium and all their care is covered. someone else may get their explanation of benefits. if you're insured, you have probably seen these forms, a description of what your insurance covered. there are probably numbers all over it that is hard to decipher until you sit down and pay close attention to it. yes, self-pay is different and often the highest price to be paid. >> lack of transparency, price
check aiming what, to break through that? >> we have launched this new project, price check. kppc and kqed and new york city start-up clear health costs. what we are doing altogether is sampling prices on a very narrow number of procedures across california. it has called in the bay area and los angeles area to get these cash or self-pay prices for mammograms at a handful of places, a handful of imaging centers or hospitals. and we're asking people who submit what they themselves have paid. because we want to the see the range of prices charged and paid around the bay area and statewide. >> and give us a sense. what are you hearing? what are you seeing so far in terms of the range of price for a mammogram? >> so it's very early. but initially, just as we
started, we had these self-pay prices. those range in the bay area now, from $125 up to $801. now, in the interim, we have had women submit some of their bills of what they paid. one woman reported she was charged $1,500. her insurer paid $1,200. she paid $300. we're a little confused. screening mammograms, that is to say the mammogram that women are recommended to get every other year or every year, depending on the guidelines, they are supposed to be covered at no co-pay. >> this is under obama care. you're finding, what, that's not the case in or women are going outside the network to get a provider they prefer? >> it could be this woman went outside her network and the co-pay was different. there are lots of reasons why. >> yeah. >> we're just trying to see what the variation is. >> is there a good explanation
for why there would be such a wide range of prices? >> in some cases, it may be that hospitals, they tend to have higher prices for things that can be obtained cheaper sat, say, a free-standing facility. a lot of time consumers have no idea if theyen just went down the street they would pay much less. ts also a big issue even for people who are insured. you might need, say, an mri and that may not be covered. or it may have a different co-pay on your insurance. >> if i were shopping around for open heart surgery, brain surgery, i probably wouldn't want the cheapest or even the second cheapest necessarily. but what is the correlation here between price and quality? >> so this is a big issue in american medicine. is there is no correlation between price and quality. so people think because they are
going to the biggest name or the most expensive place that somehow they are getting better care. and that may be true. it may not be true. we don't have good measure active quality in the system to give people that kind of answer. >> what are you hearing from doctors or other providers about this whole concept of crowdsourcing the price? >> so we have heard from doctors and some radiologists and they are actually really interested in the project. so we are hoping to partner with them more as the project goes on. >> they would be somehow threatening. for most this is a profit center potentially. >> that's correct. it's something. in some conversations i've had there is a weariness. but our messages, everyone agrees that this marketplace is broken in terms of how well it can work and how well it can function. and so there are actually interested in working with us to help shine a light on this big
issue. >> so you chose mammograms first. quickly, what other procedures do you anticipate down the line asking about? >> we're going to be asking about mris, colonoscopy, and one or more procedures after that. >> so fairly common procedures that you could get people to send you information about. >> common procedures and non-emergency procedures. obviously, if you're just in a car accident, you're not going to be calling and shopping emergency rooms. >> thanks a lot. >> thank you, scott. you can share what you paid for our mammogram at kqed.com/mammogram and shop a range of prices in your area. and scotts schaeffer is back now to join me for a look at what's coming up.
hi, scott. >> hi. >> the finishers, both democrats. john perez of hrafplt a. recount started friday in two counties. where does this the go from here? >> there were 15 counties altogether. there is no automatic recount provision in california like there is in some states. it will be expensive. john perez can do that, but he has to pay for it. he gets to pick which counties, which precincts in those counties. they are getting ready. they can't begin counting nebraska four, fresno, is done with their count. it is all uncharted territory. it's never really been done before on this scale. >> seems like a convoluted process. it seems like it might be unfair too. maybe it favors the the weightier candidate. >> if you want a recount, you have to pay for it.
in this case, he has over $1 million left in the bank. some say why didn't he spend in the campaign. if he had, maybe he would have come in second. yes, it does. you know, elections are imperfect. when they're really close you see some of the imperfections. and that's what we are seeing now. >> and he better hurry because the pal lots have to go to print very soon. >> translator: secretary of state has to begin getting the voter guide together. this could drag out weeks and weeks and weeks. let's turn our attention to high-tech. facebook. there was a recent report it manipulated users's moods to the types of stories you might see on facebook. this week calling for a federal investigation. what is some of the other fallout? >> well, first of all, there's a lot of questions. what were they doing? it's kind of creepy, this company, which had a benign reputation, would be manipulating people's emotions for their own curiosity. what are they going to do with the data?
and why did they do to it? at this point it is generating a lot of questions. in don't seem to mind. stock price have gone up since this came out. >> and considering changing policies on chain stores. what's going on with that? >> the rules for formula retail were put in place 10 years ago. they have been amended, tweaked and changed and it's a hodgepodge. the city has done an analysis. they found it is reducing economic activity. it is raising prices because the smaller stores aren't as competitive pricewise. the board of supervisors is going to be voting on package of changes to that. very controversial. people like the unique character of their neighborhood. they don't want a lot of chain stores coming in changing that. >> in the meantime, there is the argument for economic growth. >> and diversity. they higher a more diverse workforce. >> interesting. scott, thank you. >> you bet. >> for all of kqed coverage go